Thursday, 14 March 2019

Rugby World Cup 2019 - England Pool Games Tour

The Rugby World Cup 2019 is being held in Japan - the first time it has been held in Asia.

I applied for tickets for the whole tournament via the ballot, but was unlucky and only got England pool tickets. I had very little knowledge of Japan, so have had to do extensive research. Below is a draft of my plan to follow England for the pool stages. 

  1. Date Thursday  19/09/2019; FLY with JAL-LHR – HND---Check in at 06.30,JL 042 – 0930-05.15+1
  1. Fri 20/09/2019,HND to SapporoJL 503 – 07.30 – 0900- Car Hire from Airport in Sapporo -Hotel in Sapporo
  1. Sat 21/09/2019-Day out to Hakodate / Mt Moiwa/ Niseko/ Otaru, Hotel in Sapporo
  1. Sun 22/09/2019,Sapporo full day,TV Tower/ Odori Park/ Clock Tower/ Sapporo Factory / Beer Factory / Jingiskan BBQ/ Ario Sapporo for food   England V Tonga at 19.15. Hotel in Sapporo
  1. Monday 23/09/2019.Car back at airport Options:Fly CTS to KIX; 2 hurs 15 mins, then transfer by train to Koyoto.  Fly CTS to ITM; 1 hur 55 mins  – airport limousine bus to Kyoto 50 mins.All flights depart from 11.00.So arrive Kyoto late afternoon, Evening to book = Gion Walking tour. Hotel = Citadines.
  1. Tuesday 24/09/2019-Kyoto, To book = 5 hur walking tour. Hotel = Citadines
  1. Wed 25/09/2019. Kyoto. Day on own visit Fushima Inari Shrine & Sake district. Hotel = Citadines
  1. Thurs 26/09/2019- Train to Kobe- England V USA at 19.45 in Kobe Misaki Stadium. Hotel = Monte Hermana Kobe Amalie 
  1. Friday 27/09/2019.Rent Car.Drive to Nara – day in Nara. Hotel in Osaka =  Hotel Hewitt Koshien. Night out in Osaka
  1. Sat 28/09/2019. Himeji Shrine / Castel. Taiyo Park.  Hotel Monterey Himeji
  1. Sun 29/09/2019. Drive to Hiroshima. Hotel
  1. Monday 30/09/2019. Hiroshima.Hotel
  1. Tuesday 01/10/2019. Drive to Kagashima or Beppu. Hotel
  1. Wed 02/10/2019, Beppu. Hotel
  1. Thursday 03/10/2019. Ferry from Beppu to Yawatahama – 2 hurs 45 mins. Uwajma Ferry – 6 sailings a day. Stay Matsuyama. Hotel
  1. Friday 04/10/2019. Drive to Kobe. Car back. Overnight in Kobe. Hotel =  Monte Hermana Kobe Amalie.
  1. Saturday 05/10/2019.  -Early Morning Bullet train from SHIN- Kobe to Tokyo - Nozomi train is the fastest - but not covered by JR Pass. Match England v Argentina at 1700 in Toyota Stadium. Hotel- Best Western 
  1. .Sunday 06/10/2019.Tokyo.Sumo tour and Tokyo in a day on the metro! Hotel- Best Western 
  1. Monday 07/10/2019.Tokyo. MariCar drive around Tokyo. Hotel-Best Western 
  1. Tuesday 08/10/2019. . Tokyo. Robot Restaurant .Hotel-Best Western 
  1. Wed  09/10/2019. Train to Hakone. Car hire from Hakone. Hakone / mt Fuji 5 lakes. Hotel
  1. Thursday 10/10/2019. Hakone / mt Fuji 5 Lakes. Hotel.
  1. Friday 11/10/2019. Hakone / mt Fuji 5 lakes. Hotel.
  1. Saturday 12/10/2019.Car back and train to Shin Yokohama- Match England v France 17.15 at International stadium Yokohama -Hotel
Sunday 13/10/2019...Fly......Check in at 08.20, JL 043 HND 11.20 – LHR 15.50

And after that we are going to need a beach holiday to recover!!!!

Friday, 18 January 2019

Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid;Trip report. Day 14. Delhi and Overall Impressions

Today was another long coach journey back to Delhi, and to the hotel where this adventure started Hotel Taj Princess.

Overall thoughts:

Compared to my previous tour with Explore! I found the trip notes provided by Intrepid rather poor. We did not know the hotels we would be staying in until the welcome meeting. The tipping process was very unclear and the advise on what to wear very confusing.

We cycled 500Km overall, and some of it was very challenging. The trip was a physical rating of 3, but our guide said this is a high as Intrepid's physical ratings go........

Hotels; apart from Udaipur the hotels were all of reasonable standard. Hot water is an issue and you have to ask at check in if the boiler is turned on - in the summer months I am sure this is not an issue. But as it was winter we found the rooms; with marble floors, walls and shuttered windows very cold. 

Clothing; For the Cycling tour just bring your normal cycling gear- I was really worried about the advised regarding 'modest' attire - as cycling gear is far from modest- but it was not a problem. As it was winter I underestimated the wind chill and for the early morning starts wished I had my UK winter cycling gear- long pants and long sleeved tops, full fingered gloves - with me. I was really annoyed that I had not packed them. I was glad I took my Snood / Buff as it was invaluable against the dust, fumes and cold. 

Guide and Back up team;
All amazing, always giving good advise. mechanic mending tires through out the tour! At water stops the crew were ready to give us snacks, fruit and water- thank you all so much! 

Food; Veggie Curry and more potato curry - was craving none curry at the end. Survived on omelettes for breakfast. As the guide took us to resturants he knew were clean, we did not get 'Delhi Belly'. 

Would I go with Intrepid again - yes. would I recommend them - yes. 

Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid;Trip report. Day 13, Agra

The bus journey to Agra was long, and despite our very early start from Madhogarh we arrived at the Pushp Villa Hotel in Agra well after lunch time. 
Agra is chaotic, dusty, dirty and polluted - it is my least favorite destination in India! However it has one of the world most iconic buildings. The Taj Mahal
 Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid; Agra 

Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid;Trip report. Day 12, Madhogarh

The 30Km of roads that we cycled on today were good; flat tar. But very busy with road construction. The group made good time and all too soon we arrived at Fort Madhogah and bid a sad farewell to the bikes and the crew who had looked after us so well for the last 12 days. 

We were staying in a 400 year old fort, now a family run hotel. again the rooms were great. We had a bathroom with a bath, but the water pressure was so low we just used the shower.

Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid;Trip report. Day 10 and 11. Ranthambhore National Park

It was after 10.30 when we left Bundi, cycling to Ranthambhore. the cycling today was the hardest. the wind was blowing in our faces and the road conditions were very tough. We stopped for our packed lunch at a lake filled with Turtles, some of them were very big. Then tackled a steep hill that just went on and on. 
This area was very rocky and stone was being mined - I think this is where our patio stone came from!
Cycle with Intrepid 

It was late when we arrived at the Hotel Raj Palace Resort in Ranthambore. 

The next day we went into the National Park at 07.00. we were wrapped up warmly as the wind was very cold and we were in an open van. We didn't see any Tigers, but did see Buck, Crocodiles and Peacocks. 
In the afternoon was needed to walk into town to find an ATM and we went to the Taj Vivanta Sawai Madhopur Lodge for afternoon tea and enjoyed watching the colony of fruit bats that live in the trees there. 
Vivanta Sawai 


Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid;Trip report. Day 9. Bundi

After an early breakfast we cycled out of the Castle and on to the tar road. Our destination today was Bundi, the guide had said that today the terrain would be Undulating. This is the cyclist word for hills. As soon as we left Bijaipur the hills started. 
We were cycling through rural Rajasthan at its most basic. We passed farms and villages where subsistence farming seemed to be the norm. People - or rather women,  collected water from a communal standpipe and carried it home on their heads. As well as gathering Cow dung and mixing it with straw to make Chulha, or fuel for heating and cooking. 
Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid;
Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid;

Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid;
It was a tough day, but we made it into Bundi in good time.
We checked into the Ishwari Niwas Hotel, this is a family run Heritage property and as with all the hotels we stayed in clean, comfortable with big, hard beds and limited hot water. 

As we had a bit of free time we walked into the walled town of Bundi. For me Bundi was the untamed India, with its Brahmin blue houses, walled bazaar and connections to Kipling and the book Kim. It was just amazing, with the local people barely even giving tourists a second glance. We were free to wander, undisturbed when we wanted to. 
We explored the town, walked up to the Bundi Palace, but it was closed. But best of all we found step-wells; or Baoris. Bundi has over 60 of these magnificent structures. We found two in the middle of the town. Sadly being used as rubbish dumps. But even the rubbish could not detract from the impressive structures. 
Bundi Step Well

Bundi Step Well 

Bundi step well 
At supper, our guide asked if the group wanted to visit Bundi Palace in the morning. We all did want to do this, so the next day we cycled around the village of Bundi and up to the Palace located on the hill above the town. The palace is falling into disrepair and just the Bats live in it now; but it is magnificent, with its Elephant entrance and fading murals. In its day this must have been one of the marvels of Rajasthan.
Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid;

Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid;Bundi

Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid;

Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid;

Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid;

Bundi was my by far my favorite place on this tour, I am so glad Intrepid include in in the itinerary. 

Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid; Trip report. Day 8. Bijaipur and Bijaipur Castle

Today our cycle was only 17 KM, so we had a lie in and a slow start to the day. Admiring the Lake that the campsite was situated on. 
Panngarh Lake, Lotus Lake Bijapur
 Leaving the campsite we cycled through farmland, with fields and fields of mustard in bloom. The roads were tar, apart from in the villages, where they became sandy and a bit bumpy.
Cycle Rajasthan. Bijaipur 
Cycle Rajasthan. Bijaipur 

Cycle Rajasthan. Bijaipur 

Within an hour we cycled past the village of Bijaipur and stopped at what I thought was one of our regular 'water stops' - but we had arrived at our destination; Castle Bijaipur.
This heritage property was built in the 16th Century and was fortified by large stone walls. As we walked through the main gateway we were greeted by a drummer, Marigold necklaces and a red dot on our foreheads. 
The rooms were all different and ours was outstanding, with a large bathroom, sitting area and large bed. It was fit for a king.
for the rest of the day we relaxed in the sun around the pool, then enjoyed an evening meal then drinks and conversation around the firepit. 
Cycle Rajasthan. Castle Bijaipur 

Cycle Rajasthan. Castle Bijaipur 

Cycle Rajasthan. Castle Bijaipur 

Cycle Rajasthan. Castle Bijaipur 

Cycle Rajasthan. Castle Bijaipur 

Cycle Rajasthan. Castle Bijaipur 

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid; Trip report. Day 7. Paangarh

We rode out of the hotel on through the countryside towards Chittorgarh. The condition of the roads got worse and worse as we peddled into the countryside and through villages.
after 55Km we stopped at a roadside stop for lunch.

We were heading for Paangarh, and the Deluxe Permanent Tents. As we ate our very authentic Rajasthan Thali, our guide advised us that it was a communal tent with very basic facilities; no bathroom and long drop toilets. this announcement did rather kill the atmosphere among the group.  we then got back on the bikes for another 22KM, then the rest of the journey was in the bus.
we got to the camp site in the dark, greeted by a drum and necklaces of Marigolds.
on getting out room ( or Tent) allocation, it became clear that the communal tent was a joke. As we all had Luxury tents with ensuite. there was a bar and an sitting area with campfire. the buffet dinner was also very good.
The following morning, in the light, we could actually see how lovely this campsite was it was a magical spot.
Paangarh Camping with Intrepid 

Paangarh Camping with Intrepid 

Paangarh Camping with Intrepid 

Paangarh Camping with Intrepid 

Paangarh Camping with Intrepid 

Paangarh Camping with Intrepid 

Paangarh Camping with Intrepid 

Paangarh Camping with Intrepid 

Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid; Trip report. Day Five and Six, Udaipur

The Journey from Pushkar to Udaipur was tough, it was only 70Km today but the roads and terrain were hard. We were getting into rural Rajasthan now. Also one of the group had an incident where children threw 'rocks ' at her. leaving her quite shaken.
Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid
Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid

Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid

Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid

Cycle Rajasthan with Intrepid
It was dark by the time we got to the hotel. this hotel; Atulya Niwas, was located a long way...15km out of Udaipur. I was extremely disappointed by this as Udaipur is all about the lake and staying near to the lake. this was also my least favourite hotel during the tour of Rajasthan. the hotel did not have a bar and the drink's list consisted of Beer and Whisky. It had a very basic restaurant, none of the staff could speak any English, the positives were the rooms were large and clean and the bed comfortable.
The following day we cycled from the hotel into Udaipur; as we were staying in Udaipur for the day we did not dress in cycling clothes/ or shoes. After a quick 15 Km cycle around the lake we were in the town of Udaipur.
The first stop was at the City Palace. The palace towers over Lake Pichola and the (James Bond) Lake Palace hotel.
The City Palace was massive and we only visited a fraction of it.

As we had the afternoon free, most people went shopping, we got a Tuk-Tuk to the Oberoi Hotel for a relaxing lunch in the lush gardens of the hotel.

At sunset we went on a boat trip across lake Pichola, from the lake you can really see how large the city Palace is.
The whole group had opted to go to the optional Cultural Show, this was held in the beautiful Bangore Haveli building. The crowd was predominantly Indian tourists, and the children really enjoyed the puppet show.
To end the day our group ate at a Rooftop Restaurant, overlooking the lake. this was the end to a perfect day.